The definition of a “strong” woman would probably vary depending on who you talk to. I think it’s obvious to say that the very definition has changed over time, constantly evolving with society itself. Some might say that the strength of a woman comes from her ability to give her time, her home and her kindness. Maybe some define it as pouring all of herself into a worthy cause; working tirelessly to make the world around her a better place. Does she never show weakness or is she always expressing emotion? Is she closed off or easily vulnerable? Is she quiet and hard to read or is she soft and approachable? Does your version of a strong woman stand there steadily with the world on her back, at the height of her career? Or is she at home with her babies while she prepares dinner for her family? Is she single or a married mother of two? Is she painted with tattoos or is there not a single hair out of place? Do you see her surrounded by many friends or home alone on a Friday night? Is she constantly moving or is she resting? Do you view her negatively, longing to change your definition? Or are you striving to become your own version of what you believe to be a “strong” woman?
There are many definitions and versions that the world has crafted up as to what a strong woman should look like. It’s almost as if it’s waiting for us to pick a side, make a choice, live out our chosen definitions. Do you want to know what I think? If not, I get it – you can close this down now, go grab yourself a Pumpkin Spice Latte and have a great Friday! Because I want to challenge you to redefine your definition of what it means to be a strong woman, what it means to be a God-fearing woman in this world full of definitions. It begins with tearing down the lie that there is one way to achieve the title of “Strong Woman.” Your version probably doesn’t look like mine, and mine may not agree with yours! Guess what… that’s ok. The question should not be, “what makes a woman strong?” No, the question should be this: where are you putting your worth?
Even in today’s church, there are cultures shaped and definitions placed on women and what it looks like to be a good, strong God-fearing woman. Maybe you grew up in a very conservative church where you were taught to follow a set of rules, and that women are to be homemakers; they are to submit to their husbands in all areas and excel in the area of meekness. Maybe you were fortunate enough to be raised in a church that valued women, and placed them in positions for them to grow and thrive in the gifts God gave them. Or, maybe you weren’t raised in the church at all, and the definition of a strong woman – a good woman – is solely dependent on what you’ve learned through past experiences and by watching today’s culture. So many voices, so many different variations thrown at us every day. How are we to truly know what it means to be a woman of God? To be a strong woman?
You reach for the voice that should always be the loudest in your life; the voice of Jesus.
I’m going to be blunt with you; I really don’t care what you look like, how often you go to church, how tattooed you may be or how high you sit on your horse. The only thing I am absolutely, one hundred percent certain of, is that we are all broken. Every single one of us has a past, has crap that we are dealing with, struggles we ache with, and heartbreaks we can’t escape from. Every single one of us bears scars and wounds, and I hate to break it to you, but you truly don’t have your stuff together. But I have awesome news…none of us do! So I’m asking you plainly, where are you putting your worth? Because from where I’m sitting, you can be at the height of your career, the best mother on the planet, the best bible study leader, the most charitable, the most healthy and fit, and the most motivated person I know – but if you are putting your worth in your own definition of what makes you great, then you’re missing the boat. Because if you begin to put your worth into what you’re doing rather than who you should be seeking, then you’re telling me and the rest of the world that we have to be exactly like you in order to be loved. Ouch. Can we let that last sentence sink in for a minute?
My world and my relationship with Jesus used to be very black and white. And yes, some things truly are – there are biblical principles and truths that I believe to be absolutely non-negotiable. I used to believe that there was one way to be, one way to live, and I was absolutely certain that my “right and wrong” standards were higher than yours. But living in black and white doesn’t allow us to see everyone else in color. I hate to break it to you, but Jesus lives in the gray just as much as He sits in the black and white. I was putting my worth in striving to be the most perfect version of myself, and girls, it fell apart… fast! Because when you are striving to be “perfect,” you are creating your own definition and that is a very dangerous place to be. It is the breeding ground for comparison and selfishness because we begin to place a standard on ourselves and others that was never meant to be reached in the first place. When we start to realize that our sisters beside us look and act differently on purpose, we can truly begin to learn from the beauty of each other’s brokenness. When we understand that our worth doesn’t come from our own standards of “perfect”, but rather the voice of Jesus, we are given the freedom to celebrate and love each other’s differences. We can tear down the lie that in order to be loved and accepted, in order to be strong, we have to look, act and agree with the same things. What if we dared to be brave, and chose to love those that didn’t meet our own definition of a “strong woman”? Better yet, what if, together, we decided to completely tear down our own definitions, and asked Jesus to help us see ourselves and our sisters through His eyes?
I am opinionated. I am headstrong and strong-willed. I am fiercely loyal to my people and if you mess with them, you better watch out. Submission and meekness do not come easily to me. It is easier for me to react than it is to sit quietly when there is an injustice. I would rather sit at home alone on a Friday night than go out to a party. I will never back down from a challenge and in turn, I love challenging others. A few of my biggest weaknesses are my temper, vulnerability, and self-preservation. I am tattooed, I cuss when I feel passionate enough about something (which is often, if we’re being honest here) and I love Jesus with my whole heart. I think logically, and have the ability to put my emotions on the backburner in the heat of an intense discussion, and I have learned through a true friend of mine that allowing my emotions to show is not the equivalent of weakness, but great strength and beauty. Why am I telling you this? Because I am so far from perfect, but I have learned to truly fall in love with how God created me to be. In turn, I have been able to open my eyes to the true artistry and uniqueness that lives deep within other people; I now have the freedom to learn from them instead of judging them. There is a reason I am the way that I am; He has a purpose for me that He doesn’t have for you. He could use you in ways that He could never use me! And that is the beauty of striving toward the process of appreciating who we were created to be, instead of trying to fit the mold of what this world would like to see.
We are beautifully different, yet we all have one similarity, one common denominator that puts us on the same playing field. We are all broken daughters of the One True King, Jesus. So, ladies, I challenge you this week to seek His voice and ask Him to open your eyes to the beauty of your strengths and the unique strengths of the women around you. My prayer is that we would encourage and learn from each other, and that our worth would be placed in the King rather than in our own definition of “strong”. Because strong women don’t follow the world and it’s definitions; strong women follow Jesus.